I just finished a little touristic outing in Budapest. One of the big things to do while in Budapest is go to a thermal bath. I went to one several years ago with some friends and the experience was a little weird, but I decided to give it another chance. This time I tried a different bath complex, the Szechenyi Bath. Let me quote from a local English guide magazine, the Budapest Funzine. “Szechenyi Bath is one of Europe’s greatest spa complexes…” and “There are saunas, steam rooms, massage therapy, ice-spitting gargoyles, floating chess boards, a whirlpool with Jacuzzi and more.”
I was completely underwhelmed – no, worse, I was disgusted. After purchasing my $14 ticket I went downstairs to the locker rooms. The lockers were falling apart, the tile floor was covered with a thin layer of mud, and the air smelled disgusting. Then I couldn’t figure out how to use the lockers. Finally I learned from a lady upstairs that after changing and putting my belongings in the locker I had to ask one of the two the guy dressed in white to lock my locker – odd system.
Since I was starving I unfortunately had to eat at the bath cafeteria. They offered all of about 2 dishes. I chose the best I could, which turned out to be the most disgusting meal I’ve had in a long time.
Then there are the baths themselves. Both the outside and inside baths ranged from a temperature of uselessly slightly-less-than-lukewarm to uselessly slightly-more-than-lukewarm. I really wanted to be sure that I had not missed the best of the baths, so when I saw an opening under one of the pipes filling the bath I positioned myself beneath the outpouring water. After a minute or so I recognized an odor I was smelling – it was the smell of petroleum products. I recognized from working in the field of environmental clean-up. The water smelled a little on the contaminated side – I’d really like to see the results of a test done on these waters.
Of course the story of my experience wouldn’t be complete without a description of the people. The visitors and employees are probably nice enough, but let’s just say that the baths are not worth going to for people watching.
Needless to say I’m not doing that again.